The South African Military Health Service carried out over two million health care activities in the previous financial year as part of its mandate to keep the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) healthy.
This is according to the 2017/18 Department of Defence (DoD) annual report, which stated that a total of 2 139 053 health care activities took place in the year under review by the service’s 7 624 personnel. They worked under a budget of R4.853 billion whilst actual expenditure amounted to R4.852 billion. This is up from the final appropriation of R4.448 billion in 2016/17.
The DoD annual report stated that the SAMHS, in an endeavour to improve the health status of the military community, continued to increase its institutional capacity to deliver and enhance its health capabilities through the fulfilment of its dual mandate as captured in the Defence Act. The SA Military Health Service provided health support services for internal and external military deployments and operations.
During the year under review, a Paediatric High-Risk Clinic was established at 2 Military Hospital consisting of a multidisciplinary team that surveyed the development of eligible paediatric patients from birth until the age of two. The refurbishment of military healthcare facilities at Bethlehem, Saldanha, George and Wingfield was also completed. Clinical technologists and engineers were appointed for the refurbishment project at 1 Military Hospital.
The SA Military Health Service supported research and development as prioritised in the National Development Plan and the SA Defence Review 2015. The neuropsychology capability was restored at the three military hospitals and a neuropsychology research capability was established at 1 Military Hospital. The first research paper by a dedicated researcher of the SA Military Health Service, entitled “The Neuropsychological Profile of Adults and Older Adults with HIV”, was published in the South African Journal of Psychology.
The SAMHS provided healthcare to external missions and the internal border safeguarding operation, Op Corona. The SA Military Health Service provided health support through unique health capabilities, such as the fumigation of elements of the Engineer Squadron prior to their withdrawal from Op Mistral in Sudan. The SA Military Health Service also provided real-time health support to several force preparation exercises, such as the deep-diving exercises of the SA Navy. Senior officers of the SA Military Health Service attended the planning conferences for Ex Matumbawe, a Southern African Development Community Special Forces exercise in Tanzania, and medical support was provided during the execution of the exercise.
The Military Health Services provided support to other state departments in 2017/18 and this included sending 32 operational emergency care practitioners and emergency care technicians to the Gauteng Provincial Department of Health during the mortuary labour action in June 2017.
The SA Military Health Service played a leading role in disaster management when the Health Centre South Coast in Oudtshoorn provided humanitarian assistance and preserved human life during the Knysna fires. An intermediate healthcare facility was established and a mobile clinic and ambulance were also deployed to render support to patients suffering from smoke inhalation and burn wounds. An additional facility was established and reinforced to address the increased patient load.” The SA Military Health Service received accolades for its efficient and professional conduct in providing emergency health care to 181 patients during this disaster,” the annual report stated.